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    French FM says France holds contacts with Hamas

    AFP
    19.05.2008 - 14:11 | Son Güncelleme:

    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday that Paris had resumed contacts with Hamas despite the European Unions refusal to hold official talks with the Palestinian Islamist movement.

    Kouchner confirmed a report in Le Figaro newspaper that said a retired former French diplomat had met last month in Gaza with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniya and Mahmud Zahar.   

     

    "These are not relations, they are contacts," Kouchner told Europe 1 radio. "We are not the only ones to have them. We are not charged with any kind of negotiation."

     

    Former US president Jimmy Carter in early April held meetings in Damascus with exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, angering Israel and the United States, which consider the movement a terror group despite its victory in 2006 Palestinian elections.

     

    But the European Union has said it would stick to its stance of not holding any direct contacts with Hamas, which it also considers a terrorist organization.

     

    Kouchner defended the meetings as essential for French diplomacy in the region, while insisting they remained limited.

     

    "We must be able to talk if we want to play a role, if we want our envoys to be able to get into Gaza," said Kouchner.

     

    Israel slapped a punishing blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized power in the territory nearly a year ago, allowing only a minimum of basic supplies through the crossings.

     

    Le Figaro quoted the retired diplomat, Yves Aubin de La Messuziere, who also served as ambassador to Iraq, as saying that Hamas leaders were ready to accept a Palestinian state created within the 1967 borders, which he said amounted to an "indirect recognition" of Israel.

     

    He said Hamas was ready to discuss halting suicide attacks and recognizing Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

     

    Egypt has been brokering negotiations between Hamas and Israel on a proposed truce for the Gaza Strip.

     

    Photo: AFP

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